Linglestown Road grows wisely with diverse development

The Carlisle Pike and Jonestown Road are filled with commercial development. The tax income municipalities reap from that development is beneficial, but traffic congestion caused by the growth isn’t.

The Carlisle Pike and Jonestown Road are filled with commercial development. The tax income municipalities reap from that development is beneficial, but traffic congestion caused by the growth isn’t.

Linglestown Road is different. Also known as Route 39, the heavily traveled artery passes through five Dauphin County municipalities and is a model of smart development.

Driving along the road, motorists find a balance of residential, business and commercial development. The road boasts homes with lawns, golf courses, shopping centers, office buildings and fields.

Part of the reason the route isn’t cluttered with commercial growth comes down to timing. But conscious zoning decisions made by township officials are another factor.

“When they (township supervisors) did the rezoning, they zoned it business/office and residential. The zoning does not allow for commercial,” said Michael Rohrer, zoning officer for Susquehanna Township. “The commercial that is there was grandfathered in. Like the area at the southeast corner of Crooked Hill Road.”

The spot Rohrer pointed out houses a small strip mall that sits along about three-and-a-half miles of Linglestown Road that passes through Susquehanna Township. The road stretches from the Susquehanna River, just above Harrisburg, and runs east just past Oakhurst Shopping Center in the township.

Special exceptions for commercial development have been granted to developers along Linglestown Road, but most of the commercial development found in Susquehanna Township exists in the municipality’s portion of Union Deposit Road, Rohrer said.

Lower Paxton Township abuts Susquehanna Township to the east, and Linglestown Road connects the two townships.

The brunt of commercial development in Lower Paxton Township sits along Route 22, otherwise known as Jonestown Road. The highway is lined with big-box store after big-box store.

Zoning along Lower Paxton’s portion of Linglestown Road only permits residential, business/office-campus and low-impact commercial development. Timing and a conscious decision by the township kept Linglestown Road from becoming cluttered.

“Route 22 was a historic highway and there is still evidence there of development from 30 to 50 years ago,” said Township Manager George Wolfe. “Route 39 wasn’t under as much pressure. Thirty to 40 years ago, Linglestown Road was open road area where people lived on the mountain.”

Initially, there was no concerted effort to keep commercial development off Linglestown Road because every municipality is required to provide a balanced portion of residential, commercial and business/office zoning, Wolfe said.

However, as Jonestown Road kept growing throughout the past 22 years, officials realized Linglestown Road was a quality commodity, Wolfe said.

Bill Hawk, chairman of Lower Paxton Township Board of Supervisors, remembers a time when Linglestown Road was nothing more than a narrow rural road that followed the mountain in the backdrop. Hawk noted that the village of Linglestown serves as a clear example of the type of development the township hopes to foster.

Low-impact commercial development surrounds the square. A small coffee house, chocolate shop, ice-cream parlor and restaurants encircle the square. Streets are lined with gas-light-style street lamps, which help give the quaint buildings in the square a historic flavor.

Trying to maintain this small-town ambiance is a challenge the supervisors face. The square houses an awkward intersection that has caused traffic problems there for years, Hawk said. Trying to figure out a way to fix the busy intersection without disturbing the ambiance is tough.

“It’s a balancing act. You have to do it so that it doesn’t adversely affect parking and properties, and it’s (the village) got that (historic) flavor,” Hawk said. “But you have to move traffic safely and effectively. You have to balance the needs of traffic with what citizens want.”

Residents and business owners in the village put together a committee several years ago to give input on how they would like to see development happen in Linglestown. Hawk said the committee has come up with useful ideas that helped the supervisors make decisions with the citizens’ interests in mind.

“Input from citizens is vital to trying to balance the needs of the community,” Hawk said. “We need to let the citizens know what’s possible according to law, and they have to give input.”

The highway passes through West Hanover Township, South Hanover Township and Derry Township before ending at Hersheypark Drive.

Several farms dot the townships and, aside from several exceptions, big-box development is absent.

In South Hanover Township high-density cluster housing development presents more of a problem than commercial development does. Residential development in this area of Linglestown Road caused the township to install four new traffic signals last year, said South Hanover Township Manager Rebecca Davis.

A lengthy court battle permitted a Giant grocery store and several other commercial businesses to be grandfathered in under out-of-date zoning laws, Davis said. But township officials are doing all they can to bring about balanced development in the municipality, Davis said.

“Oh, I think it could (become cluttered), unless something is done on a local township level. It’s the nature of the road. Developers are beating down the door,” Davis said. “Portions of it (Route 39) are commercial and residential. And the township is definitely concerned about traffic on Route 39.”

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